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After the successful reception of its temporary move, city officials said Holidays on the Plaza will remain on the plaza.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said the community response and turnout for its annual winter-themed event has prompted the city to keep the ice skating rink and associated activities at Government Plaza.
“I can’t see a situation where it’s not going to return to Government Plaza. It has been a success,” Maddox said. “It makes me really proud of the city to put on an event like that and see it successful.”
Holidays on the River, as it originally was known, began alongside the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum property in 2012, the year after an EF-4 tornado tore a 5.9-mile path of destruction across Tuscaloosa, as a means to foster community hope and goodwill during the holiday season.
With its growing popularity, it was moved in 2015 to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
Tuscaloosa city officials decided to relocate the event again for the 2021-22 season from the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater to Government Plaza because of ongoing construction on Jack Warner Parkway directly in front of the amphitheater’s entrance.
But what initially was seen as a temporary move will now, based on the public’s response, be made permanent.
Through Dec. 31, there had been a 121% increase in skaters this season over the same period during the event’s last full season in 2019-20.
The 2020-21 Holidays on the River was attempted, but ultimately was canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
After its Nov. 22, 2021, opening, which featured decorated trees for the Tinsel Trail, the annual fundraiser for Tuscaloosa’s One Place, visitors and attendees compared it to a scene out of Hollywood.
Ashley Hester, director of communications for Tuscaloosa’s One Place, said the organization initially was apprehensive about relocating the Tinsel Trail to Government Plaza for the fundraiser's ninth edition.
But, like with most everyone else, the move proved to be an unexpected benefit for the family resource center.
"Little did we know how successful this move would prove to be for Tinsel Trail," Hester said. "Visitors and sponsors alike were overwhelmingly in favor of the move, with many remarking that downtown Tuscaloosa looked like a scene from a Christmas movie.
"The central placement of the Tinsel Trail meant that more people than ever were able to access and enjoy the Trail."
City officials agreed.
“I have heard nothing but praise for both events this year from citizens, visitors and downtown business owners,” said Stacy Vaughn, the city’s director of public services, which oversees and manages the event. “All-in-all I think the combination of the two has been magical and makes downtown Tuscaloosa look like a Hallmark movie.”
Ice skating on the plaza is still available through Monday. For it final day – the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday – daylong skate passes will be $10, down from the typical $15.
“It was a great deal and they did a great job,” said Councilman Lee Busby. “And just watching all the families out there strolling around and to hear the numbers, it’s fantastic.”
For more information, go to www.holidaysontheplaza.com/
Reach Jason Morton at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Tuscaloosa holidays event to make Government Plaza permanent home